NBA Surprises! SB Nation's NBA blogs are writing about the biggest surprises on their teams today -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Read about Detroit's happy surprise below, and then catch up on the rest of the league.
Five months ago, the idea inspired distaste. Andre Drummond with the lottery pick? The disappointment from UConn? Come on. Read the scouting reports. He doesn't have a motor, he doesn't rebound, no passion for the game, huge bust potential -- and those free throws! The only reason we'd take him for is his size and age. Hasheem Thabeet, Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic. No thanks.
He certainly fit a need, but this year's draft was filled with big men and most options similarly seemed to be a good fit. Andre Drummond was the afterthought, the one to be grudgingly settled for. And not unreasonably so. UConn went from a National Championship to a trainwreck with Drummond, meanwhile another highly touted freshman big was taking Kentucky to the title with sterling numbers and fellow classman Cody Zeller was putting Indiana basketball back on the map.
No one could have foreseen just how welcoming a new league would be to the 19 year old. Once fans got their first taste of Drummond's athleticism in the preseason his bandwagon began to fill, but even the most optimistic couldn't predict this. Eleven games into the season he's been one of the best rookies in the league and a handful of teams are kicking themselves for deciding him too risky.
It's difficult to overstate just how good Drummond has been to start the season. He doesn't yet qualify for the leaderboards, but if he did he'd be toward the top in FG% or any of the advanced shooting stats. He's 11th in the league in rebounding per 36, 12th in blocks per 36, 14th in steals per 36, 13th in WS/48. And remember, this is from someone with whom we were going to need to be patient.
Compared to his rookie peers, there's a strong case that he's been the best so far even against the likes of Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard. He leads all rookies in WS/48, rebounding percentage, trails only Davis in PER, and no one is even close in field goal percentage or TS. Due to the larger role he carries on the team one might argue that Monroe has been better, but there's no doubt that he's been at least the second-best player.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in these numbers is that there's no reason to believe they would fall off with expanded playing time. There is the experience factor, as getting more used to the NBA game and improving his fundamentals seems like it would only help. Perhaps more time along Greg Monroe as the team's best rebounder would suppress some of his rebounding numbers ... but I think that's something we're all willing to deal with.
That is just the numbers side of things. The eyeball test has been possibly even more exciting. Not as sterling as the numbers, considering he does occasionally look lost, gets out of position, forgets to block out. But he also does some things that are mighty rare for a 7-foot, 280-pound 19 year old -- such as using an incredible wingspan to get out in the passing lane to go coast to coast, bringing the blocks (with a nice low foul rate), and Moose to Bull alley oops.
The next step is pretty clear: more please. More minutes and more of them alongside Monroe. Frank has said the obvious, that it's clear this is our future, but that he has a plan for bringing Drummond along. Hopefully the next phase of that plan is as many minutes as Drummond can handle, all alongside Moose, starting tonight. But we'll just have to see.
Looking back to sentiments from June, pining for more minutes and a starting spot for Drummond is a great problem to have. Those hopes that he'd eventually develop into Moose's frontcourt partner certainly wasn't envisioned to have been fulfilled by November 2012.